Against the “Pragmatic Libertarian Case for the Basic Income Guarantee”

Originally posted on August 15, 2014

Self-styled “Bleeding Heart Libertarian” Matt Zwolinski is out with a new series of essays defending a “basic income guarantee” (BIG). For those who don’t know, a BIG is a program where the government gives everyone, regardless of wealth or income, a set amount of cash every year. Professor Zwolinksi has previously attempted to justify a BIG on philosophical libertarian grounds, which I considered unprincipled. He is now attempting to justify a BIG on “pragmatic” libertarian grounds. I have issues with this line of defense as well.

Zwolinki’s argument for practicality boils down to four claims: that a BIG is cheaper than the current welfare state, a BIG is less paternalistic, a BIG would require a smaller bureaucracy, and a BIG would remove a lot of the opportunities for “rent-seeking” (meaning it would be harder for the rich and powerful to get special treatment). Zwolinski then attempts to brush aside principled libertarian arguments against a BIG by claiming that a libertarian “Utopia is not an option”. Continue reading “Against the “Pragmatic Libertarian Case for the Basic Income Guarantee””

Al-Jazeera Interviews Me on the Basic Income

Al-Jazeera English found my article on the basic income interesting enough to invite me on their show for a panel discussion on the subject.

I’ve got to be honest, I’m not very happy with my performance in this interview. I let myself get pigeonholed into defending how the basic income would result in people working less, when I had about six or seven other arguments to make as well. I’ll chalk this one up to inexperience.

Live and learn.

Against “The Libertarian Case for a Basic Income”

Originally posted on on December 6, 2013

Matt Zwolinski, of Bleeding Heart Libertarians fame, has a new post on in which he attempts to defend a so-called “Basic Income Guarantee”, whereby the government pays everyone (or a very large portion of people) a minimum amount of money regardless of employment or any other status, using libertarian principles.

I believe he failed in his endeavour.

Zwolinski’s first defence: A Basic Income Guarantee would be much better than the current welfare state.

This has a simple response: Why should the federal government be taking money by force from anyone, for any reason at all? There are many economic costs associated whenever the government purloins the public, of course; but there are also moral issues involved with theft. Just because a BIG may be less paternalistic and condescending to the poor than the current welfare paradigm, as Zwolinski suggests, does not mean that it just and ethical to do in the first place. Zwolinski provides no defense of why the state has either the right or the obligation to take from some to give to others.

Zwolinski’s second defence: A Basic Income Guarantee might be required on libertarian grounds as reparation for past injustice. Continue reading “Against “The Libertarian Case for a Basic Income””